WHO - World Health Organization

11/25/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/25/2021 06:45

Director-General's opening remarks at Member States Information Session on COVID-19 - 25 November 2021

Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all Member States, and thank you for joining us once again.

The Secretariat remains deeply concerned about the steep increase in cases and deaths from COVID-19 in the European region.

In many countries and communities all over the world, we are concerned about a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic, and that people who are vaccinated do not need to take any other precautions.

Of course, vaccines save lives, but they do not fully prevent transmission.

We cannot say this enough: vaccinated people need to continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected, and from infecting someone else who could die.

That means wearing a mask, maintaining distance, avoiding crowds and meeting others outside, or in a well-ventilated space inside.

And we continue to call on all Member States to implement a comprehensive and tailored approach of public health and social measures to prevent transmission, take the pressure off health systems and save lives.

While Europe is again the epicentre of the pandemic, no country or region is out of the woods.

It's important for all countries to surge their capacities now to ensure the right measures are in place to avert the worst consequences of any future waves.

Through COVAX, manufacturers and governments can easily prioritise sharing doses so that countries in need can protect their vulnerable populations.

The ACT Accelerator and COVAX are essential for helping to end the pandemic, and we look forward to the next meeting of the ACT Accelerator Facilitation Council on the 9th of December, to consider the financing framework for the new plan and budget. Dr Bruce Aylward will say more in a few moments.

Through WHO's COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, manufacturers can also easily pool technology and know-how, so we can reach more people, more quickly.

This week, C-TAP and the Medicines Patent Pool finalized a licensing agreement with the Spanish National Research Council for a serological antibody test.

This is the first transparent, global and non-exclusive license for a COVID-19 health tool.

I would like to thank the government of Spain for its support for C-TAP, and I also thank His Excellency President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica for his leadership in initiating C-TAP.

We hope this will be the first of many licenses shared through C-TAP.

We continue to explore every avenue for expanding access to life-saving tools.

With the WTO Ministerial Conference next week and with more countries now supporting a waiver on intellectual property rights under the TRIPS agreement, I hope that consensus can be found and that we move forward.

At the same time, we are working to strengthen the capacity of our Member States to manufacture vaccines and other health products through technology transfer hubs.

For the future, the world will need a network of manufacturing sites in different regions that can rapidly pivot to manufacturing vaccines and medicines to respond to epidemics and pandemics, using the latest technologies.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan will provide an update on multilateral technology transfer hubs during today's briefing.

As we work to end this pandemic, we also continue our work to understand its beginnings.

This week, the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, held its first meeting.

The group agreed to meet frequently, and to focus on two issues:

First, advising on the development of an overarching framework to study the emergence of novel pathogens;

And second, to rapidly undertake an assessment of the current understanding of the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

The Secretariat will continue to keep Member States updated on SAGO's work, and we ask all Member States to give SAGO the time and space it needs to undertake this essential scientific exercise.


The ongoing pandemic underlines why the world needs an ironclad global agreement to set the rules of the game for pandemic preparedness and response.

As you know, this will be the subject of next week's Special Session of the World Health Assembly.

The world has treaties to manage many other threats; it's time for one on pandemics.

This Special Session is an opportunity to create a truly durable and historic agreement to protect all people against pandemic threats.

We must address the fundamental weaknesses in the global health architecture exposed by COVID-19.

I'm encouraged that there is now an emerging consensus on the need for such an instrument or agreement, although I recognize there is still much work to do to reach agreement on exactly what that instrument looks like.

We will not achieve everything at the Special Session, but I hope it will serve as a launching pad for a new instrument, by establishing a leadership team to direct the rapid development of a zero draft for negotiations, which would begin immediately after next year's World Health Assembly.

I ask all Member States to approach the Special Session with a spirit of solidarity, a willingness to compromise and a commitment to making the world safer for future generations.

This is the moment for bold and courageous leadership - from all of us.

As always, we are grateful for your engagement with today's presentations, and we look forward to your questions and comments and guidance.

I thank you.